Setting project objectives, but don't know where to start? Check our beginner's guide to project objectives, their examples, and how to write ones yourself.
Do you know what it feels like to go inside a store without a shopping list? That's what running a project with no project objectives is like.
You'll take more time than expected, quite possibly spend more money that you should have, feel lost along the process, not get the best value for the money, and might even end up without the actual thing you set out to get in the first place.
Project objectives help keep all the processes and all the people working on them organized. As a project manager, you'll know what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how it helps the company reach its larger goals.
And not only that, your team and all the relevant stakeholders will use project objectives as their guiding light along the way, while moving in the same direction and helping each other.
In this guide, we're going to tell you what those project objectives are, why they are so important, and how they are different from project goals. We will also give you several real examples of project objectives and give actionable tips for when you need to write them. Let's get to it!
Project objectives are the things you plan to achieve or deliver by the end of the project. They can be both tangible and intangible, like completing specific tasks, finalizing specific assets, or simply improving overall workforce performance or productivity.
But whether they are tangible or not, they need to be measurable. As the old adage goes, 'you can't manage what you can't measure'. Being able to assess and evaluate the success of your project objectives is, therefore, crucial for desired project outcomes.
Think of it this way: project objectives give context and meaning to everything you and the team are doing, they explain why the project is headed in a specific direction. On top of everything else, project objectives help you improve communication, simplify stakeholder management, and enhance collaboration when everyone can clearly see that they are in the same boat.
Linguistically, the words 'objective' and 'goal' are often used interchangeably to mark the same things. Semantically, however, they can mean different things, especially when it comes to project management.
In short, a project goal is usually long-term and high-level, going hand in hand with the overarching theme and purpose of the project in general. A project objective, on the other hand, is short-term and means to measure specific actions taken to achieve that grand project goal.
Project goals and project objectives are meant to complement each other and as you move forward with your project planning, they will help create a flow and break the project down into meaningful milestones and individual tasks.
Let's consider some specific project objective examples you would normally work with in the IT or software industry.
Suppose you're building some software system and although it is perfectly functional, you see room for improvement, whether that means faster data processing speed, fewer bugs and glitches, or something else. For this, you need to implement targeted optimizations to boost the overall performance of the system.
As a rule, you would need to dive into resource constraints, inefficiencies, and the bottlenecks that might be impacting the responsiveness of the system. This involves delving into the intricacies of code, database queries, and server configurations.
Having gone through all those layers of research and troubleshooting, you should end up with a substantial (20% or so) improvement in the system's response time, resulting in a more efficient and user-friendly experience for clients and end-users.
Unlike Objective 1, which is more tangible and means to bring specific results you can easily measure, Objective 2 is intangible and means to transform the way workflows are handled in general (which will, in its turn, bring tangible change in more or better projects delivered).
This is the kind of objective you could set when you see a need for improved adaptability and collaboration within the team. More often than not, teams already have a methodology they follow, which is more traditional, like Waterfall. With Waterfall, one project phase flows into another, Waterfall projects are fixed and not as open to change, not as adaptive.
In fact, most tech teams these days operate using Agile, whether it is Scrum, Kanban, or something else they go for. The point is, Agile allows your team communicate more effectively, work in iterations, these bite-sized workload sprints, which helps everyone stay in the loop and on the same page.
If this transition is the objective, it would entail restructuring workflow processes, quite possibly rebuilding or regrouping teams, and training people on Agile, what it means to them, and how they can use it to improve overall outputs.
This objective aims to enhance project flexibility, responsiveness to changing requirements, and overall team efficiency, laying the groundwork for a more dynamic and adaptive development culture.
For software development, quality assurance is of high importance. With this objective, you will be aiming to ensure maximum software functionality with the help of meticulous assessment, identification of testing gaps, and the implementation of additional unit, integration, and acceptance tests.
This improved test coverage will not only enhance the reliability of your software, but also improve the development process, reducing the likelihood of undiscovered defects and improving the overall quality of deliverables.
Above anything else, SMART project objectives give your project directions, meaning, and clarity. The project team will find it relatively easy to evaluate just how well the project is going by looking at their project objectives and the progress they have made towards achieving those.
On top of that, project objectives help everyone maintain high engagement and motivation levels. It's no surprise that people's motivation drops when they feel like a tiny cog in a large machine, not completely aware of how their work is moving big company goals closer. Writing project objectives helps you avoid that, gives people a good understanding of their impact and the value they are bringing into the workplace by hitting those SMART objectives.
Having no project objectives, on the other hand, will give you the opposite outcome — lack of motivation, confusion, and chaos in the workplace, which is always bound to cause considerable project challenges if not failures.
You have probably already heard about the SMART methodology. It helps you make sure that all the objectives you set are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. But there are actually more things you can do to make sure your objectives yield impressive results.
As one of your first project planning steps, you should always set out to write SMART project objectives. Project objectives mean to guide you from the very beginning of the project, they will help you build a solid project plan and stick to it along the journey. They will also serve as a benchmark of success — wherever you are in the project, you will always be able to go back to the objectives and evaluate overall project progress.
Starting early in crafting project objectives also serves as a preemptive strike against ambiguity. This early commitment to clarity helps teams navigate complexities, make informed decisions, and foster a shared understanding of the project's trajectory.
The more committed people feel to project objectives, the more likely they are to do their best to achieve them. All stakeholders need to have a good understanding of each project objective, why it is something they need to chase, and how their success with those objectives is going to impact the overall project game. This understanding creates a sense of purpose and alignment, transcending individual tasks and fostering a collective vision.
When stakeholders are brought into the room, a sense of ownership and commitment is instilled, laying the groundwork for a collaborative and goal-oriented project environment. If you want to know what stakeholders actually need to be involved in the process, see if you can create a stakeholder analysis matrix, this project management chart that helps you understand which stakeholder is most impactful and involved in the project.
It's easy to get lost in detail when you're writing something that can be as high-level as project objectives. Keep in mind that project objectives are not general business objectives, and they are also not project plans. In fact, a good project objective will always be laser-focused and won't take more than one or two sentences. They need to be your guide along the project, the beacon of light, not a step-by-step roadmap.
Using this methodology when writing your project objectives will make it easier for you to shape concepts into specific expectations. Here's how.
As you move along your project lifecycle, some project objectives might become outdated or might require tweaking here and there. It's a good idea to see how your team is progressing and update them on how they are doing compared to the initial project objectives.
On top of that, project objectives can change because of things like scope creep. They will not necessarily drastically change or set course in a whole different direction, but it is not uncommon, especially in the IT sector, to adjust your project objectives mid-way when priorities change.
Furthermore, these checkpoints foster open communication within the team. Team members gain insights into their progress relative to the initial objectives, fostering a sense of accountability and transparency. It also enables them to adapt strategies, allocate resources more effectively, and collectively navigate any challenges that may arise.
Project objectives play a crucial role in guiding, defining, and ensuring the success of a project. When done right, they will bring clarity and focus, improve resource management, mitigate risks, ease decision making, refine stakeholder management, and make successful project delivery a lot more realistic.
Using the right project management software is crucial for keeping your project objectives SMART, effectively managing stakeholders, and centralizing all the relevant project and resource information within a single system.
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